Vikings Latest Free Agent Move Is a Stunner

Dec 19, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) in the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings signed free-agent tight end Josh Oliver from the Baltimore Ravens on Monday afternoon, but that was only the beginning.

Later that evening, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made his first real splash into free agency, signing EDGE rusher Marcus Davenport from the New Orleans Saints.

Vikings Latest Free Agent Move Is a Stunner

Davenport, 26, joins the Vikings on a one-year, $13 million deal, with more details about the contract to be revealed later.

Vikings Latest Free
Oct 20, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted Monday night about the deal, “The Vikings are signing pass-rusher Marcus Davenport, sources tell me, Mike Garafolo, and Tom Pelissero. He gets a 1-year deal worth $13M. Impressive.”

The move for Minnesota was surprising as nobody had Davenport anywhere near the Vikings free-agent radar. Heading into the week, the team was cash-strapped — and still is skimpy on cap space — and Davenport figured to be out of Adofo-Mensah’s price range. But much like Harrison Phillips and Za’Darius Smith one year ago, the Vikings executive “got his man” and will pair Davenport with Danielle Hunter in 2023, a fearsome duo on paper.

Jan 2, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports.

A handful of Vikings fans bemoaned the signing as they were somehow convinced 2023 would be a “rebuilding year” for the franchise. Onboarding Davenport flatly contradicts that false hypothesis. Others were unenthused by Davenport’s 0.5 sacks while playing half of all Saints defensive snaps in 2022, a fair criticism.

New Orleans selected Davenport in the 1st Round of the 2018 NFL Draft and has played 63 games since, starting 32. He’s tallied 142 total tackles, 60 QB hits, 25 tackles for loss, 21.5 sacks, and 7 force fumbles in five seasons. The knocks on his resume are durability and consistency.

Nov 17, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) works out prior to the game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports.

Here’s Davenport’s tale of the tape from Pro Football Focus since joining the NFL five years ago:

2018 = 71.8
2019 = 84.1
2020 = 73.3
2021 = 88.8
2022 = 76.8

Davenport is an adept run-stopper, has an elite pass-rushing skillset, and was ranked by PFF as this year’s top EDGE rusher on the free-agent market.

Kevin Brown tweeted Davenport’s pressure statistics, “Davenport’s career pressure rate is 12.7%. Za’Darius Smith’s is 12.4%. Danielle Hunter is 13.2%. He is that caliber pass rusher, and only 26 years old.”

Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) is pressured by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) and defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Adding Davenport also casts Za’Darius Smith’s future into question. Last week, Smith said goodbye to Minnesota and Vikings fans on Twitter, a tweet not recognized by the Vikings because Smith remains on the roster. A $13-million Davenport likely spells the end of Smith’s brief tenure in Minnesota. Expect Smith to be traded or released sooner rather than later.

NewOrleans.Football’s Mike Triplett opined on the Vikings-Davenport relationship, “Davenport’s market was impossible to predict because of his injury history and inconsistent production. But this feels like a steal. Low risk with such a potentially high reward. Such a shame it didn’t pan out in New Orleans.”

Davenport joined the Saints three months after the Vikings disposed of New Orleans via The Minneapolis Miracle in 2018.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by